Monday, December 9, 2019

My Bonnie lies over the driveway...

In that this story has nothing to do with vintage Hondas, distribution of it will be somewhat limited this time. With apologies to the original song, which I have parodied here for my title:

Speaking of parodies, read down to the first one on the page that echoes my reference to motorcycles! 

My Bonnie leaned over the gas tank,
The height of its contents to see,
I lit a small match to assist her,
O Bring back my Bonnie to me.

     I love my Sunday rides with my Jamuligan friends, switching back and forth between my various small-bore machines of late. I have kind of been missing the torque and heft of my last W650 Kawasaki, but they rarely come up for sale and there isn’t much else that seems to work for me in that category… until this CL posting showed up:

2008 Triumph Bonneville, Black with only 4646 miles.
Does not start and could use some TLC. Registered through SEP 2020.
Looking for $1200 OBO.

Frame: Tubular Steel Cradle
Suspension: Front: 41 Mm Forks Rear: Chromed Spring Twin Shocks With Adjustable Pre-load Rake: 28°Trail: 4.33 In. (110 Mm)
Engine: DOHC, Parallel-twin, 360° Firing Interval Horsepower: 66 Bhp (67 Ps) @ 7,200 Rpm Displacement: 865 Cc Bore x Stroke: 90 X 68 Mm Torque: 52 Ft. Lbs. (71 Nm) @ 6,000 Rpm Compression Ratio: 9.2:1 Fuel System: 2 Carburetors With Throttle Position Sensor And Electric Carburetor Heaters Fuel
Tank Capacity: 4.4 Gal. (16.6 L)
Clutch: Wet, Multi-plate
Cooling: Air/Oil
Transmission: 5-speed Final Drive: X-ring Chain
Body Colors: Claret, Aluminum Silver, Fusion White, Black
Brakes: Front: Single 310 Mm Disc, 2-piston Caliper Rear: Single 255 Mm Disc, 2-piston Caliper
Tires: Front: 100/90 19 Rear: 130/80 17

Manufacturer Description:
A pedigree that few models can match. A true roadster, the Bonneville matches classic British style to 21st century technology. This pairing of authenticity with modernity has led the Bonneville to become an icon in its own right with several famous designers creating their own signature tank designs. A cool way to cover the urban landscape; the Bonneville is agile in jammed streets and at home, blatting down a leafy country lane. It has a pedigree few models can match plus a tangible credibility within today’s motorcycling world. Available is the subtle Bonneville Black – a Jet Black Bonneville complemented by a black engine finish.

I saw this posting on a Saturday night, just before Halloween and thought, “How can I go wrong with a deal like this?” So, I sent an email which was answered quickly. I had leftover cash from the sale of my 1991 Honda Accord, so I was all set to load up the ramp and tie-downs for a quick trip across town to go have a look.

I really don’t advise bike shopping at night, but sometimes time is of the essence, so off I went to investigate this offering. After finding the correct alley address, I was able to see the bike located in a side yard with one floodlight illuminating the poor Triumph. There was no battery in the bike, so I had to assume that the engine still turned over, but given the many experiences I have had with long-term storage of 250-305 Honda engines, that is a questionable assumption.

My current lightweight bikes (1988 CBR250R-45 HP/350lbs and EX500 Kawasaki -50HP/425 lbs) are great fun and easy to handle on my Sunday rides with my Jamuligan friends, but I have been missing that nice fat, torquey feel of my last Kawasaki W650 parallel twin. I have owned three W650s in the past ten years and they were solid, reliable classic-looking machines.

Kawasaki only sold 1500 W650s in the US during 2000-2001 and they are rare to find these days. When the W650s were put on the market, here in the US, the “new Triumph 650” models were hitting the dealerships at the same time. Comparisons were inevitable and the Kawasaki had many strong points, but the Triumphs won out in the end. I’ve never had a chance to ride any of the new Triumph models, but the opportunity arose recently to own one at a bargain price.

The seller was a current military man and had owned the bike since new, however, he had been stationed in Monterey, Virginia, Washington and elsewhere in the past 11 years and the bike had not been ridden since 2011. He had recently moved back to San Diego and made efforts to revive the bike after it had been poorly stored causing rust in the fuel tank and corrosion all over, everywhere else. The bike deal included a couple of leather Triumph-branded leather jackets and the registration tags were good until Sept.. 2020, which is a $129 consideration. I offered $1,000 and he accepted. We loaded the big machine into the Tacoma and off I went, back into the black Saturday night, with my new project.

I really like bikes that have centerstands, which this one did not possess. However, looking underneath the chassis, a pair of mounts for a centerstand were noted. Sure enough, our eBay friends in China were offering a whole centerstand kit for $119 with free shipping for the big Bonneville models.

Surprisingly, the carb rack is pretty much identical to that of the W650 Kawasaki, so I was pretty familiar with the setup. In typical British fashion, there were unexpected challenges as the analysis of the bike’s faults continued. For one thing, the PAIR air system for the emissions control runs big fittings down next to the spark plugs in very close proximity to the plug itself. Most spark plug sockets, which normally have ample room on a Honda ran afoul of the adjacent air fittings.

The TPS switch on the carburetors must be unplugged from a harness connector which is buried just inside the frame tube, making re-connection quite a chore. One of the throttle cable adjusters is right up against the sliding choke connector, as well. The carburetors had not seen fresh fuel through them since 2011, so both were totally gummed up inside. Both float valve needles were completely stuck in the float valve seats due to varnish deposits. One of the idle jets was stuck hard in the carburetor body, requiring lots of carb cleaner, a precision screwdriver tip and a bit of hammering in order dislodge it for cleaning. Several rounds of cleaning in my little ultrasonic cleaner finally dissolved the varnish deposits, allowing all of the parts to be reused during assembly.

The rear chain, spokes, and brake rotor were rusted and corroded, requiring a lot of hand cleaning. The chain was doused in PB Blaster, then some synthetic chain lube. The rear brake rotor cleaned off with steel wool and brake cleaner. The brake pedal is located above the level of the foot-peg, which is an odd angle for your ankle, especially my fused one. The adjustment nut for the brake linkage rod is inaccessible beneath the footpeg bracket.

During pre-purchase inspection, the front fork seals were noted as showing definite signs of leaking. The fork oil then drooled down the left fork leg and onto the brake caliper and rotor.

The fuel tank was drained then filled with a gallon of phosphoric acid and 3 gallons of water, then left to sit for 3 days. Eventually, what appeared to be rust inside the fuel tank was apparently just leftover fuel solids, which dissolved and filled a plastic container full of brownish gunk. Subsequent flushing with water revealed a white coating inside the fuel tank which was apparently unfazed by years of gasoline acids and other byproducts. A good used petcock was purchased from an eBay seller, which had intact fuel screens for the inlet fittings. After a good air dry with compressed air and some time with a heat gun the tank was deemed safe to use, without further treatment.

After carburetor installation, along with a fresh battery, the bike engine spun over eagerly and fired up after a few moments of cranking. The engine sounded a little uneven at idle, which finally was found to be caused by a disconnected vacuum line to the carb manifold fittings.

The Haynes shop manual, which came with the bike, showed a float level setting of what I thought was listed as 13 to 16mm! That seemed to be a rather broad range, given that Honda often specifies float levels in .5mm increments. I used the higher figure to help offset the usual factory leanness in today’s emission controlled carburetors. What appears to be the end result is that the bike, which can only rest on the side stand, allows the carburetors to partially flood the engine if the fuel petcock is left in the ON position. If the petcock is left in ON or RESERVE, the engine becomes very hard to start, often running the battery low until it finally clears its throat and starts up. When the petcock is shut off after each ride, the bike fires up in a few revolutions. I started the bike with the petcock in OFF until it catches and starts running for a minute, then switch the fuel to ON position.

An Internet search seemed to indicate that the float level is really supposed to be 17mm! I contacted a Triumph site that deals in various modifications and hoped to receive some concrete information about what the setting is supposed to be from the factory. I never heard back from them, but verified the setting at the local Triumph dealership.

I realized that I completely mis-read the float level specs in the book. A first casual glance that I thought was 13 to 16mm turned out to be 16 to 18mm, with 17mm given as the popular average to achieve success in proper carburetor calibration. I attempted an on-bike readjustment of the float levels, but apparently the left side didn’t go as planned and the bike suddenly was giving off a backfire through the carburetors, exiting the rubber manifold connectors despite a tight hose clamp at the connection.

That set off a search for new manifolds, which lead to finding one on eBay for $15 delivered. Ultimately, a second one was in stock at the local Triumph motorcycle dealers for about $.25 less money. I bought a new oil filter and a gallon of recommended semi-synthetic oil which ran the bill to past $50, just for the oil and filter.

The Chinese centerstand assembly arrived a few weeks after ordering and failed to impress me with poorly-fitting components and improperly-designed hardware. After spending over an hour in modifying the various parts, the fitted stand would not allow the bike to come up successfully. Messages to the seller proved somewhat fruitless at first, then finally they admitted that the stand really didn’t fit this model machine. While at the Triumph dealer, my friend Issac checked the computers and discovered that there close-out factory stand kits for $120! I laid down my plastic across the counter and put one on order ASAP.

After waiting a few days to receive my centerstand kit, I called the shop only to have them tell me that Triumph had listed the part as centerstand ONLY, not as a kit! All the rest of the hardware bits will probably cost another $100 and some of them might have to come from England, which might take a few weeks! Grrr….. Honda wouldn’t do that to me! Eventually, all the centerstand parts did come in, sooner than expected and the installation went smoothly, so now the bike has a proper centerstand function which makes chain maintenance much easier. After some delays, I was able to receive a full refund for the non-fitting Chinese stand, which they didn’t want to be returned.

I decided to remove the carburetors once more and reset the float levels more precisely and check them for any signs of leftover fuel contamination from the previously contaminated fuel supply. That left side level was off a few millimeters, which was corrected to match the other carburetor. The new manifolds were installed and everything buttoned back up correctly. This time the bike fired up quickly, ran evenly on both sides and didn’t show signs of over-lean or over-rich mixtures. Subsequent test runs bore out the final success of reviving the fuel system from top to bottom.

The fork seals needed attention next, as the fork oil had run down the left side fork and into the brake caliper and brake rotor, leaving a distinct lack of braking feel when the lever was pulled. I carefully read the Hayne’s book and hoisted the bike on my seldom-used bike lift. Extracting the front wheel and fender, the fork tubes slid out of the triple clamps with relative ease. The forks are held together with the inner damper rod, which is retained by an 8mm Allen socket head bolt through the bottom of the fork case. Fortunately, I happened to have a small 3/8ths drive special socket with 8mm bit, which worked perfectly for bolt extraction.

The 41mm forks hold nearly 500cc of oil, once you reassemble them with new seals and dust covers! I used some auto store synthetic transmission fluid for the refill and they seem a little more compliant than before. Once the forks were rebuilt, the brake rotor was cleaned carefully and a new set of pads installed. NOW I have a decent front brake!

Despite its rather tatty appearance, the bike is mechanically very sound and has been taken on a couple of Sunday rides of 60-70 miles each with complete success and enjoyment. I never really expected to be a Triumph owner, but circumstances worked towards reviving this previously neglected machine to fulfill my cosmic request for another big-bore parallel twin for my Sunday entertainment.